Farm Horizons, April 2017

Oil for animals?

By Starrla Cray

Dr. Melissa Shelton of rural Howard Lake is an internationally known expert on medical-grade essential oil use for animals, earning the nickname “the oily vet.”

“That’s actually on my license plate and one of my websites,” commented Shelton.

She’s authored two books, has her own line of essential oil products, offers online classes, and has taught in locations across the United States, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Her research on essential oils began a decade ago with her own family. Shelton noticed that her two children had adverse reactions to artificial food dyes, chemicals, and sweeteners.

“Even the overload of white sugars in jelly would affect my kids,” she noted.

Shelton took a class on natural remedies, which turned out to be about essential oils.

She began using them to treat scraped knees, upset stomachs, and headaches, and saw impressive results. The oils also served as a replacement for air fresheners.

“I had to make sure that the essential oils would also be safe for use in animal homes,” Shelton noted, explaining that much of the literature in the veterinary community cautions against this, as animals are more sensitive to scents than humans.

Essential exploration

She decided to explore the issue herself, speaking to hundreds of people who had successfully used essential oils on their pets. Her research showed that those with adverse reactions to oils were often using them excessively, or incorrectly.

“Of course, you can use anything the wrong way,” she said.

Shelton, who opened Crow River Animal Hospital & Dental Clinic in Howard Lake in 2001, said her practice has always been “holistically minded,” incorporating many methods of treatment.

At first, essential oils served as simply another veterinary tool. As her passion grew, Shelton started doing essential oil consultations for clients in various countries throughout the world.

Today, Shelton is focused on teaching, writing, and researching, instead of consulting and traditional veterinary work.

“I had to limit my practice, in order to do one thing well,” she explained.

Oils online

In April 2014, Shelton released her own line of essential oil products for animals, called animalEO, which is available online. Shelton personally tests each blend, and has used oils on parrots, dogs, cats, fish, and an assortment of other animals.

“We’ve even had hermit crabs,” she said.

Many commercial products now contain essential oils, but Shelton said they are often synthetic or “perfume quality,” rather than medical-grade.

Shelton has tested thousands of oils, and said they can vary year to year. Quality may suffer when demand gets too high, for instance, as companies struggle to keep up. At animalEO, only the highest quality oils are used, and supplies are limited.

Originally, animalEO products were packaged out of Shelton’s home, but the business quickly outgrew the space.

“After I spoke at a convention in Iowa, our sales doubled,” Shelton recalled. “We just keep growing and growing. Right now, we’re just trying to contain the growth.”

In September 2015, the family broke ground on a big blue building on their property for animalEO, featuring brightly colored walls and an employee workout facility.

“We moved in this fall,” Shelton said, adding that the building offers room to grow.

Staff at animalEO currently includes Shelton, her husband Winston, and her best friend Anita Pelnis of Howard Lake. Shelton’s two children also help out, along with Anita’s three children.

To learn more about Shelton’s work, or to order animalEO products, visit

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